The 3.86K (2.4-mile) swim course in the Pacific Ocean is an elongated rectangle, over 1.6K long and almost 100 metres wide. It starts on the east side of Kailua Pier, heads south to the turnaround vessel and returns to the pier, with athletes swimming in a clockwise direction. The in-water start is approximately 55 metres from the shore and is led off by canoes, boats and, in true Hawaiian style, officials paddling surfboards.
The swim start for the professionals is 15 minutes before the age groupers’ mass start. Don’t forget to draft and, if you’re slower, stick to the sides of the group rather than trying to fight your way through the middle. Competitors aren’t always friendly.
Every morning in the days leading up to the race, Kailua Pier is packed with triathletes heading out for training swims. Don’t miss the chance to check out the course. The sun rises at around 6.15am during race week so make an early start. Whether you’re racing or spectating, it’s a perfect opportunity to spot the pros and soak up the pre-race atmosphere.
The marine life off the islands of Hawaii is stunning – turtles, dolphins and all manner of colourful fish, often in the waters of the swim course. Don’t let them distract you: you’re here for a reason so stay focused on your swim and leave the excited pointing for the diving and snorkelling trips before or after the race.
The water temperature is usually around 26C (79F) so it’s a wetsuit-free swim, and therefore a new experience for many Europeans. Get to grips with swimming without your wetsuit back home (if you can bear it) in the run-up to the race in these warm waters.
While there’s no surf in this section of Hawaiian water there are often currents and swells that will test the strength of your stroke, especially near the turnaround.
The famous Coffees of Hawaii boat is anchored off Kailua Pier every morning in the run-up to the race, serving espressos to swimmers while they bob in the water. It’s a singular experience, one you should not miss – and make sure you look back towards land to take in the spectacular landscape. Follow Coffees of Hawaii on twitter: @CoffeesofHawaii.
Cut-off: The swim cut-off is 2 hours and 20 minutes after the start of the race.